Fall is a season often welcomed by fly fishermen, particularly those fond of throwing streamers to aggressive fish. As the leaves begin to change color, so do some of our favorite fish like brown and brook trout in preparation for spawning season, which makes these fish aggressive and more willing to chase a big chunk of meat floating by. Streamer fishing requires practice, technique, and proper gear. Our streamer fishing guide will help you hit the water with the proper gear to successfully target large, predatory fish this fall.
Fishing streamers on lighter weight rods is feasible if you want to throw smaller patterns but you’ll likely need the added power of a 6 to 9wt to throw large articulated patterns. The tactics and patterns you employ are an important consideration. You’ll want enough backbone to throw a large fly (or even two flies) into a stiff wind. Another aspect to consider when choosing a streamer rod is the type of line you’ll be using (more on that shortly). If you fish a weighted, full-sink line, you’ll need a rod that can easily carry the heavy line to accurately deliver your fly.
New for 2020, the Scott Centric replaced the Radian as the manufacturer’s flagship trout rod.
Throwing streamers all day can be tiresome so choosing a fast action rod that’s lightweight is your best bet. Some great options to consider for streamer rods are the G-Loomis IMX-PRO, Sage Payload, Orvis Helios 3D, or the BRAND NEW Scott Centric. Lastly, The Sage Igniter is a purpose-built rod for ultra-technical conditions and can carry large amounts of line, perfect for casting full sink lines streamers with into stiff headwinds. Most rods in the 6-8wt category will have the option of a fighting butt which is a worthwhile feature to have on any streamer rod. Pair a fast action rod with one of the reels below and you’ll be ready to chuck meat all day to aggressive buck browns.
Fly reels and drag are an increasingly important aspect of your fishing set up as you begin to target larger fish with bigger fly patterns. Having a reel with a strong, smooth drag will help you play large fish quickly and with confidence yet still protect lighter tippets when called upon. If you’re new to streamer fishing, or always looking for an excuse to pick up some new gear, consider adding one of the following reels to upgrade your streamer kit.
The new flagship model from Ross Reels, the San Miguel, is a thing of beauty and comes with a sealed carbon/stainless drag system. Pair the San Miguel with the new Scott Centric fast action rod for a world-class setup. If you’re interested in the San Miguel, check out our full breakdown HERE.
The Ross Reels LTX is no stranger to big fish and is capable of both fresh and saltwater applications. If you’re looking for a great trout reel for streamer season that you can also take to the bonefish flats, look no further.
The Abel Vaya is another great option for anglers that want a reel that can cross between fresh and saltwater applications. Available in 4/5, 5/6, and 7/8, there’s a reel to meet the needs of any multi-species angler. We recently took a trip to the Mayfly Headquarters in Montrose, CO to see just how this beautiful reel is made, click HERE for more information and photos from the tour. If you’re considering a Vaya or any other Abel reel for that matter, be sure to check out the new Casey Underwood Edition Reels that have some epic artwork on them.
Fly Lines for Streamer Fishing
Streamer fishing provides an opportunity to use a wide variety of fly lines. Anglers can opt for a floating line, intermediate sinking line, or full sink line in varying weights depending on the fishing scenario and application.
In smaller streams or slower moving water, anglers can use a weight forward floating line with or without a removable 7-9’ polyleader. An added benefit is that polyleaders can be easily removed and you can switch to nymph rigs or dry flies with relative ease. Tom Rosenbauer opts for floating lines for a majority of streamer fishing scenarios so I wouldn’t scoff at the idea! Two options to consider would be the Airflo Kelly Galloup Streamer Floating Fly Line or the Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX Taper. These two lines are designed with compact heads that allow you to easily turn over larger patterns and maintain all the line control benefits of a full floating line.
Intermediate lines are designed to sink (at a rate slower than full sinking lines) and come in two primary forms: Intermediate Sink Tips and Full Intermediate Lines. An intermediate sink tip has a sinking head with a floating running line. This allows your flies to get deeper than a floating line while still maintaining the ability to easily cast and mend the lighter running line. Consider the Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Taper Intermediate Fly Line if you’re looking to pick up an intermediate sink tip line.
Full intermediate lines are more useful in deep, fast-moving water when you need to keep your fly at the proper depth throughout your retrieve. The Airflo Sixth Sense Slow Intermediate Fly Line is a full intermediate line that’s great for rivers and stillwaters alike.
If fast water is your norm and getting your flies down as fast as possible is the goal, then you’ll want to opt for a full sinking fly line. Rivers and stillwaters can require different lines: “uniform” full sink for rivers and a “parabolic” sinking lines designed for still waters.
Uniform lines sink at the same rate throughout the length of the line, in order to quickly drag your flies to the depths where larger fish lurk. A great option to consider would be the Airflo Kelly Galloup Streamer Max Long Fly Line. This line is designed to keep flies in the zone even after aggressive strips.
Parabolic sinking lines, on the other hand, have more weight in the “belly” of the line to help form a “U” shape underwater. The end result of fishing a parabolic sinking line is that your fly will “hover” just above the bottom, avoiding snags while staying in the prime strike zone. Additionally, when retrieving lines, the weight profile of parabolic fly lines imparts a unique action on flies.
Full sinking lines come in a variety of grain weights that are designed to be paired with a rod of the corresponding weight. The heavier the grain weight, the faster the line will sink. Many sinking lines will come a weight or two heavy i.e. the equivalent of a 7wt grain equivalent will be marketed as a 5 or 6wt to compensate for modern fast action rods and to help quickly sink your fly. A good rule of thumb for choosing the correct weight of streamer rod and a line is the bigger the fly the heavier rod and line you’ll need.
The last piece of gear to consider when streamer fishing is your leader. Many streamer fishermen prefer short, stout leaders, of uniform diameter. To make your own leader, simply cut 3-5 feet of 10-20lb fluorocarbon and attach it to your fly line with a perfection loop and a non-slip mono loop to your fly. Some anglers prefer to cut back a 2 or 3x fluorocarbon leader to a 4ft section, leaving you with a similar result. Check out the new spools of Scientific Anglers Absolute Fluorocarbon Tippet and Absolute Streamer Leaders that come in ready to use 4’ lengths. Streamer leader formulas vary so find one that works for you!
The clock is ticking…
Spawning season is quickly approaching for brown trout and our time to target predatory fish has arrived. Please be mindful to leave spawning fish and their redds alone throughout the season. Lastly, for more tips and techniques for effectively fishing streamers this fall, check out our complete guide to Fly Fishing Streamers. We break down when and where to fish, how to effectively cast large bulky flies, and even how to pick an effective fly pattern. While there’s no substitute for casting practice and proper technique, proper gear can really enhance your time spent on the water.
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.